UTG @ Melbourne International Comedy Festival: Nina Conti, Nick Cody, and Sam Simmons

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Comic: Nina Conti
Show: In Your Face
Venue: Melbourne Town Hall

Ventriloquist Nina Conti and her long-time, foul-mouthed puppet companion, Monkey, have been delighting MICF audiences for years with their unique brand of comedy. If Tuesday night’s performance is anything to go by, Conti’s new show In Your Face will only intensify Melbourne’s love affair with her and her menagerie of puppet creations. A fully improvised affair, In Your Face sees Conti and her politically incorrect primate companion fixing grotesque prosthetic masks to unsuspecting audience participants, which Conti then controls with unpredictable and utterly hilarious results. Unscripted, uncensored and unforgettable, the show proves a riot, with Conti using a few personal details from her participants’ lives as the basis for some wildly inappropriate shenanigans.

Watching Conti in full improvisational flight is an engaging experience and the steady stream of laughs she is able to create, while simultaneously controlling four puppets and interacting with the audience is mind-blowing. With the prospect of a different show every night and just enough Monkey to keep old fans satiated, Conti has found a way to breathe new life to one of comedy’s oldest art forms, providing a fresh and innovative experience that is both unlike and on par with anything else on display at this year’s festival. I highly recommend seeing it – just be careful where you sit, or else you might end up being part of the show.

‘In Your Face’ is on now at Melbourne Town Hall. Click here for dates and ticket details.

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Comic: Nick Cody
Show: Beard Game Strong
Venue: Melbourne Town Hall

I can confirm that as his show’s title attests, Nick Cody‘s beard game is indeed strong, so too is his funny game. A veteran of the Australian comedy scene, despite being just 27 years of age, Cody has built a reputation as one of the most relatable and reliable comics the nation has to offer, gradually building his profile the old-fashioned way; by inspiring chortles in practically every comedy club, or room with a microphone and a PA in the country. Beard Game Strong marks his graduation to genuine headliner status, and during this performance Cody ensured that no one walked away doubting his credentials for the job.

An instantly likable gent, Cody’s comedic style has an everyman quality that when coupled with his beard and understated blokey delivery style grants his endless array of funny anecdotes a layer of relatability many comics would kill for. Whether talking about his parents (who he affectionately dubs loose units), paying to masturbate in strangers houses (or Airbnb as you might know it) or his intense hatred for Fruitarians, Cody remains in full control of the sold-out room, ensuring the laughs come free and fast in what is a well-paced show. Featuring some genuinely original insights into the realms of relationship dynamics, share-house living and military attack dog training, and a genius piece of crowd participation involving an audio book, Beard Game Strong is safe enough to appeal to the masses, but risqué enough to appeal to the more alt-cultured audiences. A show with a larrikin heart, but an intelligent mind, it confirms that Cody is ready for the big time.

‘Beard Game Strong’ is on now at ACMI – Cube. Click here for dates and ticket details.

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Comic: Sam Simmons
Show: Spaghetti For Breakfast
Venue: ACMI Beyond

Absurdist comic Sam Simmons is one of Australia’s finest comedy exports, with a history of producing award-winning shows that reach beyond the expectations and imaginations of comedy audiences. His new show, Spaghetti For Breakfast, turns the weird factor up yet another notch, resulting in one of the most oddball, hyperactive and side-splittingly funny hours of comedy I’ve ever witnessed. A show based very loosely around a premise of “things that shit me,” watching Spaghetti For Breakfast is an experience akin to taking acid and going for a walk down an inner city street, as Simmons takes seemingly mundane, everyday scenarios and takes them to unimaginably obscure and funny places.

In Simmons’ world, everything is a joke waiting to be played out, and so things as simple as a pair of iceberg lettuces or a pair of jeans are quickly warped into the punchlines of some insanely funny prop-comedy jokes. As a voice-over both guides and heckles Simmons throughout the show, he engages, enrages, shocks and agitates the audience, using his understanding of timing to manipulate emotions with devious intent. Simmons’ ability to transition between reality and absurdity in an instant is truly breathtaking to behold, as is the sheer amount of work he does in one show. He doesn’t need to tell jokes, because all of the show (and indeed existence) is a joke to him and this approach pays off in dividends in the form of constant laughter.
Taking its title from an opening sequence where breakfast cereals are re-positioned as illicit substances, Spaghetti For Breakfast is Simmons’ vivid imagination brought to life in all of its bamboozling, awe-inspiring glory. This is one rabbit hole you want to fall down.

‘Spaghetti For Breakfast’ is on now at ACMI Beyond. Click here for dates and ticket details.

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